It all started in 1941, when excise taxes were placed on a number of items deemed luxuries by the US government. These "luxuries" included telephone services, light bulbs and cosmetics. Also luggage, which was certainly not a luxury item for the military families that had to move frequently due to war assignments. By 1944, more items were added to these special tax assessments, including handbags, an expansion of the luggage category.
This original 1941 press photo appeared in numerous newspapers and is now in the collection of The Vintage Purse Museum.